The Champaign Room hosted a tournament challenge group on ESPN.com over the past month, inviting our fans and followers to play along with the staff and win the best prize of all: Pride. Oh, also an interview with TCR!
This year’s champion was University of Illinois sophomore Jacob Miller, who picked Villanova over Michigan correctly in the championship, winning the group in the process. We sat down with Jacob on Monday night to talk through his selection and get some insight on the Illini.
TCR: Why’d you pick Villanova?
Jacob Miller: First of all I do like Villanova. They’ve been a personal favorite of mine because they’re elite, but they’re not a powerhouse team like Kansas, UNC or Duke. They’re not prototypical. They also play a very good version of team basketball where it’s not reliant on one guy. It’s not just the Jalen Brunson show, it’s five guys playing their hearts out.
TCR: What made you sign up for the TCR Bracket Challenge?
JM: Because (TCR Site Manager) Stephen Cohn is one of my best friends, and I had to prove to him I could make a better bracket than him.
TCR: How long did it take you to fill out?
JM: It took about 30 minutes. I was at Murphy’s Logo Night while doing it. I double-checked all my picks to feel confident. I definitely looked really hard at Loyola. I had them winning their first-round matchup, and I looked hard at the betting line, so I figured Loyola would win. I knew they were good, but I didn’t expect them to go further than the second round. I second-guessed myself with my Duke pick in my Final Four, but I stuck with Duke, so I only had Villanova and Michigan right in the Final Four.
TCR: Speaking of Loyola, what do you think of The Rambler Room?
JM: I love the Rambler Room. It was probably one of my favorite things of the NCAA Tournament.
TCR: Since you did win, you’re the go-to source for college basketball insight now. What’s it going to take for Illinois to make the tourney next year?
JM: It’s going to take a full-on adoption of the system. With the players we’re seeing leave, like Mark Smith, we’re going to be very young, but we’ve got the makings to be a good team if we buy into Brad Underwood’s system. I don’t know if we can get there, but we can be scary. It’s going to be a very enjoyable season for Illini Basketball.
TCR: Early prediction for the 2019 champion?
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @THEspiderpig22 (sure, that’s a good handle).
And who knows, you may always win next year?